God too often seems distant, the Word of God dull, our hearts apathetic. We come Sunday, move through motions, sing songs, sit, stand, give some money, shake some hands, hear some words, call it worship and go home. We have not become atheists, but we differ little in practice from an atheist. If we notice, we wonder where God has gone. Perhaps we we feel sorrow for the coldness of our hearts. Or worse,we feel little and know less.
You would notice if your car were missing from the parking lot, or your wallet from your pocket; but it seems that we can lose God and not notice at all. God can become irrelevant to our lives; he can become a word, but not the Word; a thought but no longer a person.
Sometimes we go through great trials and God seems to have forgotten — but we know that God works even in the midst of a storm. Worse is when God seems to have simply left, like a guest who slips out in the morning without a note and we forget because we must hurry off to work.
It seems absurd to say that God has gone. It is horrific to realize that we have forgotten God. Yet we can grow accustomed to a cold relationship, like a husband and wife who have grown tired of one-another; they do not fight, they do not leave, but they also do not care.
How do we find God when we do not understand where and why God seems far away? Where do we go and what will we do?
Isaiah 66:1–2 (ESV)
66 Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
How does it come to be that God will come close? Humility, contrition, trembling. We cannot come near the Lord without fear. Think of it like this: You could not come near a fire without fear; but our God is a consuming fire. How then do you expect to come near without fear? You cannot come near a volcano without fear; and yet mountains melt as the Lord approaches.
Where is grace and love and mercy? They are with God in abundance, the blood of Christ flows with unending mercy; his blood is grace for us. But you must not think you can come ot the grace of Christ without the blood of Christ. You cannot see the mercy of God without seeing the Cross. If you were to understand the throne of Grace, you would both tremble for fear — and yet nothing could keep you from the hem of Christ’s robe.
You must see the extraordinary paradox of coming near to God in Jesus Christ. You must see the extraordinary paradox of Christ, the living Word of God or you cannot see him rightly at all. He is lion and lamb
Revelation 5:6–10 (ESV)
6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
He is the lamb who was slain — a lamb with horns. He is a lamb who takes up the scroll: and one that scroll is written judgment. He is a ransom and judge.
As we read the words of our text this morning, I want you to see the paradox of a God who is a hiding place and who at the very same moment is a cause for unquenchable fear.
Psalm 119:113–120 (ESV)
113 I hate the double-minded,
but I love your law.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in your word.
115 Depart from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commandments of my God.
116 Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,
and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
117 Hold me up, that I may be safe
and have regard for your statutes continually!
118 You spurn all who go astray from your statutes,
for their cunning is in vain.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross,
therefore I love your testimonies.
120 My flesh trembles for fear of you,
and I am afraid of your judgments.